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While Topps baseball cards have been a staple of the baseball card collecting hobby for decades, 2022 does represent major change and uncertainty for the future of Topps and their baseball card license. It is too early to say definitively that 2022 will be the absolute last year for Topps baseball cards.

Topps has held the exclusive license to produce Major League Baseball player cards since 1981. Their current license expired after the 2021 season. In late 2021, Major League Baseball opted not to renew their license exclusively with Topps, instead choosing to partner with Fanatics, the dominant online seller of sports merchandise, memorabilia and collectibles.

Fanatics then signed a multi-year deal to be the exclusive producer and licensor of MLB player cards and trading cards starting in 2026. However, Topps was still granted a non-exclusive license to produce baseball cards through the 2025 season as part of a separate bridge agreement they made with MLB.

So while Topps lost their monopoly on the MLB player license, they do still have approval to make traditional baseball cards through 2025. Whether or not they choose to exercise that full license or not remains unclear. Topps may see reduced production and promotion of baseball cards in the coming years as Fanatics starts making their own MLB cards in 2026 with the full backing of the league.

There are also additional complicating factors that could impact Topps’ long-term participation in the baseball card market. Perhaps most significantly, Fanatics acquired Topps as a whole in January 2022 for around $500 million. So while Topps and Fanatics were competitors for the MLB license, they are now under the same corporate ownership.

Some industry analysts have speculated that Fanatics’ new ownership of Topps could mean they may scale back Topps’ baseball card offerings sooner than 2025 in order to more quickly transition the baseball card business fully under the Fanatics brand name. Others argue Fanatics may want both brands operating separately to maintain choice for collectors. But ultimate decisions will be up to Fanatics’ leadership.

Another consideration is the recent boom in popularity of digital collectibles and mainstream interest in NFTs (non-fungible tokens). Both Fanatics and Topps have been leaders in the online collectibles market and see potential opportunities there. It’s possible traditional paper baseball cards could see reduced focus and resources applied as companies explore greater profits in digital spaces.

And while baseball cards remain a popular part of the sports collectibles industry, there are signs of weaker growth and interest compared to the 1980s-90s peak. Declining popularity among young people could make Topps and Fanatics reconsider the profitability of paper baseball cards in the coming years. Waning interest could cause companies to shift investments elsewhere sooner.

Baseball card collectors and nostalgic fans provide a dedicated customer base that is unlikely to completely abandon paper cards. As long as there remains sufficient collector interest and profits, it’s reasonable to expect Topps to keep making traditional cards through the end of their current MLB license in 2025 barring any unforeseen circumstances.

While 2022 does usher in major changes with Topps losing their exclusive license and coming under Fanatics ownership – it’s too early to say with absolute certainty that this will definitively be the final year for Topps baseball cards without knowing Fanatics’ long-term strategy and how the collector market evolves. Topps still has approval to produce cards through 2025. Continued strong collector interest could prompt companies to preserve the traditional product for several more years. But alternative outcomes are also quite plausible given industry trends and the shift in MLB’s license holder. Only time will tell how Topps’ iconic baseball cards continue, or whether 2022 does indeed end up as their valedictory season after over 70 years of production. But for now, their catalog will keep expanding baseball’s nostalgic allure and link to history for another few years at minimum.


In baseball’s modern era from 1969 onward, the standard playoff format consisted of the division winners from the American League and National League who would automatically qualify for the postseason. In each league there were initially two divisions – the East and West from 1969-1993, and then three divisions – East, Central, West from 1994 onward after expansion.

The team with the best regular season record in each league would be awarded the number 1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the League Championship Series. The two division winners would face off in a best-of-five LCS format, with the winner advancing to the World Series.

This structure remained largely unchanged until 2012 when baseball added a second Wild Card team from each league to expand the playoffs. The one-game Wild Card playoff round was introduced with the highest seeded Wild Card hosting the second Wild Card team. This meant two additional teams now had a chance to play in the LCS and World Series each year.

The new Wild Card format was an immediate success, as the newly added winner-take-all game created tremendous excitement. Fans loved the sudden death aspect of it, as a team’s entire season could come down to one pitch in a high-pressure game. It also placed an even greater importance on the regular season and trying to earn a division title and home-field advantage for the Wild Card round.

With 30 teams now in Major League Baseball there continued to be calls for an even further expanded playoff structure. Many talented clubs were missing out on October opportunities with nearly half the leagues not making the playoffs each year. Baseball ultimately decided to again tweak the format prior to the 2020 season.

Starting in 2020, there would now be three Wild Card teams from each league instead of just the previous two. This meant the three division winners in each league would automatically qualify for the postseason as they had previously. But now the three teams with the next best records, regardless of division, would also make it as the Wild Card clubs.

The three Wild Card teams would then face off in a new best-of-three Wild Card round to produce one surviving Wild Card team from each league. The top seed would host the 8th and 7th seeds for this best-of-three matchup. The winner would advance to face the league’s number 1 seed in the LDS or Division Series round, which remained a best-of-five format.

This new expanded playoff structure with three Wild Card teams has produced some thrilling baseball in recent autumns. More teams are staying in contention longer and keeping fans engaged down the stretch of each 162-game regular season. The additional Wild Card spots have given a glimmer of hope for teams who may have fallen short in previous formats.

Some fans argue it diminishes the importance of winning a division, while others counter that it simply spreads the playoff rewards to more clubs and cities. Either way, it’s proven a boon for Major League Baseball’s bottom line as well as television ratings during the Wild Card rounds and beyond. Parity and suspense seem higher than ever before across both leagues each October.

Going forward, it remains to be seen if baseball will choose to tweak or modify the playoff format further in coming seasons. But for 2022, the structure will stay the same – three division winners and three Wild Card teams producing a 12-team playoff in each league. More fan bases will have a reason to pay attention right up until the final out of the 162-game schedule is made each fall. Only time will tell if three Wild Cards per league ends up being the goldilocks number that creates just the right level of playoff intrigue and inclusion for the modern game.


Major League Baseball has utilized a wild card playoff system since 2012 to expand the number of teams that make the postseason beyond the traditional three division winners in each league. The current wild card format allows for two wild card teams in each league to earn a spot in a best-of-three games playoff series to determine who advances to the League Division Series.

When the wild card system was initially introduced in 2012 and 2013 there was just one wild card team from each league that participated in a one-game playoff to determine the wild card winner. This put a lot of emphasis on that single elimination game and meant a team could win 93 games and still miss the postseason if they lost that wild card game. To help address the unfairness of a single game deciding a team’s playoff fate, MLB expanded to a two-team wild card format beginning in 2012.

Under the current setup, the two teams in each league with the best regular season records among those who did not win their division compete in the wild card round. The team with the higher winning percentage of the two hosts the lower seeded club for their best-of-three series. This mini-series helps alleviate some of the randomness that could occur in a one-game playoff. It also expands the postseason and gives an extra two teams the opportunity to fight for a spot in the LDS each year.

For the 2022 MLB season there continues to be two wild card playoff spots available in both the American and National Leagues. This means a total of four wild card teams will participate in best-of-three series to kick off October baseball this year. The top two division winners in each league receive byes directly to the LDS round, while the two wild card teams battle in their series.

In the AL, the four division winners as of mid-August are the New York Yankees (AL East), Houston Astros (AL West), Cleveland Guardians (AL Central), and either the Toronto Blue Jays or Tampa Bay Rays (AL East – race is close). That would leave the other non-division winner between Toronto and Tampa along with the next two highest winning teams as the two AL wild card clubs.

Over in the NL, the division leaders to this point are the Los Angeles Dodgers (NL West), New York Mets (NL East), and St. Louis Cardinals (NL Central). Like the AL East, the NL West is tightly contested between the Dodgers and San Diego Padres. Whichever team does not win the division would likely be one NL wild card team. The other spot would go to either the Atlanta Braves, San Francisco Giants, or Philadelphia Phillies – whoever has the next best record among non-division winners.

As the regular season winds down in September, the races for the division titles and wild card positions will only intensify. More than ever, every game matters for teams hovering around or above .500 on the brink of the postseason picture. The additional playoff spots created by the wild cards adds another layer of drama, excitement, and possibility. It gives franchises renewed hope even if they can’t catch their division leaders. Coming all the way back to win a wild card series after a grueling 162-game schedule would be an incredible achievement and story.

While some traditionalists argue expanding the playoffs dilutes the regular season, the current wild card format has largely been seen as a successful modification that has made October baseball even more compelling. More franchises and fan bases have remained invested deeper into September knowing two extra playoff slots are on the line. The setup provides a balanced approach between honoring division champs and rewarding other quality teams. As long as MLB maintains the two wild card per league structure, four teams will have the opportunity to fight their way into the division series through these one-and-done wild card rounds each fall. The drama and excitement they create has made postseason baseball even more compelling and unpredictable.

For the 2022 MLB season there continue to be two wild card playoff spots available in both the American League and National League. This means a total of four teams – two from each league – will participate in best-of-three wild card series to begin the postseason chase this October. The system allows an extra two clubs per league a chance to extend their season and battle their way into the LDS. While the races are still ongoing, the wild cards provide renewed hope for franchises chasing their division leaders down the stretch and make for an thrilling conclusion to the regular season.


Baseball cards have long been popular collectibles for both children and adults alike. Originally starting as simple promotions included with bubblegum or other candy in the late 19th century, baseball cards have evolved into serious collectibles that can even retain significant monetary value. In this example, we will discuss how baseball cards can be used as an educational and engaging way to learn about history, statistics, and the business of sports.

One of the most interesting aspects of baseball cards is how they provide a snapshot into history. By looking through older sets of cards from the 1900s, 1920s, etc. you can see the styles of uniforms, stadiums, and player photos evolve over the decades. This allows for interesting historical discussions on how the sport developed. You can point out technological differences in photography and print quality between early cardboard print cards compared to modern glossy stock. Students can make observations on how uniforms became more standardized and how stadiums changed with the rise of night games and stadium construction booms.

Many early stars of the game whose records were truly impressive for their eras can be discovered on vintage baseball cards as well. Players like Nap Lajoie, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, and Grover Cleveland Alexander achieved stats and milestones that may be unfamiliar to new generations of fans. Examining cards helps contextualize how the game was played and put into perspective greats from the past. It’s fascinating to see how baseball statistics were still being established in the early 1900s, with records and data not as reliably tracked as they are today. Baseball cards provide a direct connection to players from over 100 years ago.

In addition to history, baseball cards can teach youth about statistics in an engaging way. Having students examine cards forces them to observe key stats like batting average, home runs, RBIs, wins, ERA and more. It gets them interested in comparing players and understanding how performance metrics have changed over time. One can look at the leaders in various categories from past decades and see how the game has evolved offensively and pitching-wise. This practical application of using real statistics on cards makes learning about the numbers more kid-friendly compared to just reciting them from memory.

While every baseball card contains stats, one area that opens doors for discussion is checking the backs of cards for biographical information. Here you’ll find nuggets about where players grew up, when they debuted in the major leagues, career accomplishments not evident from pure stats, and sometimes even personal anecdotes. Reading bios helps one gain an understanding and appreciation for the journey and backstory of different ballplayers. It presents an opportunity to discuss overcoming adversity, leadership, traditions of various cities/regions, and more. Making connections between a player’s profile and stats/achievements helps interpret the numbers.

Speaking of the front and back of cards, their design elements remain a fascinating aspect in how they have evolved alongside the sport and culture. Early tobacco cards utilized simple typography and monochrome player portraits with zero color. Later decades brought about team logo inclusion, brighter hues and photography, and innovative styles that tracked trends. Modern issue parallels nostalgic retro designs with updated rosters. Following design trends through the years of different baseball card companies keeps students engaged in visual learning about graphic design history as well.

One also cannot understate the business lessons that can come from baseball cards. In studying sets from the 1970s and before, one sees how some companies had ultra-short print runs or were regional-only issues. This instilled a scarcity which increased demand, unlike today’s national releases. The rise of star athletes as card icons selling production runs can be charted, like Nolan Ryan becoming the first true “chase” card in the early 1970s. Understanding rarity, supply/demand, licensing, targeting demographics and more important marketing concepts translate whether discussing vintage tobacco cards or modern memorabilia.

Covers like card shows, the collectibles industry’s trade publications/websites, grading services, and special parallel/autograph/memorabilia insert sets remain vast topics for exploring the modern business of sports cards. Students learn transferrable skills seeing star players as brands to pull customers, determining value, and identifying factors that affect monetary worth such as condition and serial numbering. The incredible sums vintage cards have fetched in recent auctions drives home concepts of scarcity, condition sensitivity and long-term investment potential for sought-after collectibles as an asset class.

Perhaps no other single collectible opens more doors to learn history, analytics, design, and entrepreneurship than baseball cards. Their long legacy presents endless case studies across many disciplines to engage students of all ages. Whether focusing on individual cards, full sets, or the industry as a whole, these small squares of cardboard remain deep wells of education beyond their roots in confections. In this example, we aimed to show just a sampling of knowledge and life lessons that can be gleaned from America’s favorite pastime on a small scale.